In November of last year, I launched my first iOS app, aimed at Catholics who wanted to pray the Rosary with the help of their iOS device. In February I debuted another app, also for Catholics, called LentBuddy.
We decided not to market either app much. I’ve read enough recently about the App Store economy to understand how much work and money is necessary to make any noticeable difference in the number of downloads your app gets. The rosary app was purely pro bono, anyway. It’s findable in a search, if people care enough about what app they use to scroll down a few times.
For the Lent app, I decided that in order to justify putting in some work on it, I had to charge something. The yearly developer fee is $100. So I settled on the lowest price: $.99. I had absolutely no expectations of how well it would perform, but I told myself that if 50 people downloaded it, that would be a success.
Like the rosary app, the idea behind LentBuddy was to solve a problem that I (and my wife, who has all my best ideas) had. Keeping track of Lent is difficult no matter how good your intentions are on Ash Wednesday.
Here’s how LentBuddy did, by the numbers:
I was somewhat surprised to see how late into Lent some people purchased the app. I didn’t expect to see any downloads after the first couple of days. I do think that I missed out on a certain amount of downloads by not getting the App into the store earlier. If it had been available earlier I might perhaps have made more attempt to reach out to different sites to ask for reviews. As it was, it got one public review, by Lisa Hess on CatholicMom.com, which was a delight to stumble across.
The Inscrutability of the App Store
Here are the numbers for the New Evangelization Rosary since it launched last year.
There’s no built-in way to understand where these people are coming from! You can guess and match the occasional spike to something that happened on the internet, but who knows? Maybe it helps that the app is the number one result for ‘evangelization’. Maybe people are getting word-of-mouth recommendations. Maybe they are just dedicated enough to finding a good rosary app that they scroll far enough down to find mine.
Maybe these are all accidental downloads. I don’t know.
Does it help the ranking that the app has nothing but 11 five-star reviews? LentBuddy hasn’t received any reviews at all, but the rosary app has a “review this app” button built into the settings. Nobody is going to the App Store and searching for an app that they own and then clicking the “Write a Review” button.
If I was worried about selling enough apps to feed my family, or even my ego, the opaqueness of the App Store would be intensely frustrating.
Did you hear that Apple came out with a watch? Yup. I can’t think of a better app to put on the Watch than our rosary app.
It seems like a no-brainer, but I have concerns about whether it’s worth it.
The time I have to devote to development is minimal right now, because I’m pouring all available hours into my new company, Highland Creative. Add to that the giant list of other features that I want to add to the New Evangelization Rosary (like an audio option, for example) and the other apps that I’m planning on putting out, and I wonder whether it’s a great time for a Watch component.
Who’s buying these Watches? Supposedly they are flying off the shelves, but I’m guessing that a lot of the people buying them are not in the demographic we’ve attracted so far: Catholics who can afford an iOS device but don’t want to pay for a Rosary app.
I see a lot of developers announcing that they are working on something for the Watch, but I wonder whether they really expect to make decent money from those efforts. Apple can afford to sell the thing because
- They’re Apple, and they’ve built the world’s most popular, successful company, and
- They’re selling the things for a ton of money.
None of these developers have Apple’s pull, and the ecosystem just doesn’t reward the same kind of pricing. The iPhone has already shown us that even people who are willing to drop hundreds of dollars on a phone often balk at spending even 99¢ on an app.
I might be wrong, but I don’t see a Watch version of the rosary app being anything more than a time-consuming stunt at this point. I wonder how many other developers feel the same way I do.
If the answer is “a lot of them” then that doesn’t bode well for the Watch itself. Apps are a massive reason for the success of the iPhone. A Watch with hardly any good apps is a Watch that very few people will buy.